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Nicolas-Henri Jacob

(1782–1871, Paris)

Head of an Amazon. Lithograph. 26.8 x 17.3 cm. Not in Inventaire du Fonds Français.

From 1805 to 1814 the Parisian history and portrait painter Nicolas Henri Jacob, who had studied under Jacques-Louis David, worked in Milan as court draughtsman to Eugène Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson and Viceroy of Italy. Follow­ing his return, he worked for fifteen years as a drawing teacher at the École de vétérinaire in Maisons-Alfort and was later very busy as an illustrator of scientific publications. Quick to learn the new technique of lithography, Jacob was already considered an accomplished lithographer when he contributed a portrait of Aloys Senefelder and a number of illustrated plates for the French translation of L’art de la lithographie par Aloys Senefelder published in 1819. The majority of Jacob’s lithographs display a refined and scrupulously meticulous chalk technique.

This Head of an Amazon can be seen as illustrating a stage in the development of lithographic printing. As indicated by the inscription in the artist’s hand beneath the image, Jacob was joined by Aloys Senefelder in producing this experimental sheet in his Paris studio. Senefelder had arrived in the city in 1819 with the intention of setting up a lithographic institute and launching a factory for the production of artificial lithographic stones. It was there that he collaborated with Jacob on the French translation of his textbook on lithography, for which Jacob produced the head of a female warrior (L’art de la lithographie, plate XIV). It is on offer here in the form of a print in negative, as stated in the inscription at the top: “Le moyen d’encrage lithographique a été inverse”. However, this does not appear to involve the process known as lithographic mezzotint, in which the printing surface is covered with lithographic ink and then – as with mezzotint on metal – a scraper is used to work the stone. In fact, the lithographic chalk drawing corresponds in every detail to the positive-working plate in the textbook and evidently does not come from a newly designated stone. Rather, Jacob and the inventor Senefelder, who loved to experiment, seem to have chemically reworked the finished plate in such a way that the printing parts became non-printing parts and vice versa. A superb impression with margins around the print area, in pristine condition. Of great rarity.

8.500 €

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